January 31, 2015

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). The wackiest entry in the Indiana Jones trilogy is also the most interesting one. It’s full of bizarre elements pieced together as though George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had raided a shelf full of late-Victorian adventure novels and then ripped out random scenes from each. Harrison Ford is quite good here, looser and more relaxed, maybe because he could sense the insanity that was occurring onscreen. The movie opens with an opulent musical number that showcases the curves of its ingĂ©nue, Kate Capshaw, whose performance as Willie is an enormous insult to womankind. Willie is what you’d get if you took a bunch of shallow romance novels and culled them for every stereotypical characteristic of the female sex. She screams frantically throughout the film, bitches and moans about broken nails, and asks natives in a small Indian village if there’s a telephone. How such a stupid character could exist says a lot about the filmmakers’ views on women. And yet, what of Marion Ravenwood, the much stronger, much more interesting heroine in Raiders of the Lost Ark played by Karen Allen? Moreover, what of the handful of scenes where Kate Capshaw is actually allowed to be charming or coy? (Such as the scene in the hotel, when she and Indiana Jones have a flirtation.) And then there’s Short Round, Indiana’s orphaned sidekick, who possesses an insatiable glee for the madness this little troupe experiences as they travel through the Asian jungle (searching for a lost rock with allegedly supernatural powers). He’s actually not the most annoying kid to appear in a Steven Spielberg film, and in fact I found him rather likable, especially when he laughed off the grotesquely exaggerated absurdity of Kate Capshaw’s character. The film’s violence and gore offer, of course, another fascinating layer. In one scene, we see a man’s heart being ripped out. It’s not as graphic as say, George Romero’s Day of the Dead, which premiered a year later and has plenty of ghastly gore sequences, but because Temple of Doom was rated ‘PG’ by the MPAA, there was some controversy over the film’s more intense sequences and the fact that children had such easy access to them. (1984 is the year in which the MPAA first issued the 'PG-13' rating.)


Robert said...

This is no longer my least favorite IJ film thanks to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even without that newer film, however, ToD goes down a lot smoother these days. Maybe I've grown more accustomed to the darker elements. It's definitely the zaniest film in the series. I think a lot of elements are hold-overs from when the film was going to be some sort of haunted mansion adventure. Think they'll reboot with Chris Pratt as Dr. Jones?

pannedreview said...

It's really not as bad as people say, even though Capshaw's character is truly grating. I'm not really a big Indiana Jones fan, though. But I'm eager to see what Chris Pratt will do in a new series.